HKHC: Moore & Montgomery Counties, North Carolina


Excerpt from Lessons for Leaders:

The Moore and Montgomery counties HKHC project worked on an array of complex healthy eating, active living challenges and environments in order to influence the thinking of advocates and decision makers and achieve large-scale impacts over time.

For more information, read the full story.

July 2014

The beauty of gentle, pine-dotted hills hides an acute impoverishment through the southern midsection of North Carolina. In Moore and Montgomery Counties, too many children have lived below the federal poverty level, and their health reflects these rates. To address this, the Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities (HKHC) partnership focused on five communities in the largely rural region where overweight and obesity among elementary school students has exceeded 50 percent at times.

The project is led by FirstHealth of the Carolinas, a comprehensive healthcare system. The organization and its partners, namely the towns of Southern Pines, Aberdeen, Robbins, Mt. Gilead and Candor, aim to remove some of the barriers and create better opportunities for children to be active and eat healthfully.

With funding through HKHC, the partnership identified problems in the built environment that affect weight gain, from a rural area’s lack of infrastructure and recreational facilities to the food-shopping limitations when a small town has only a convenience store with processed and packaged foods. Then the partnership tackled the problems. In the five communities, GIS (geographic information system) mapping and analysis was used to craft land use plans that promote sidewalk and trail development. It’s all about “comprehensive connectivity,” and such paths, if they link home to school, are an important first step in getting children to be more active on a daily basis, explained project director Melissa Watford.

“GIS mapping and other tools show us where we need sidewalks and trails, and healthy food outlets so that kids can walk safely to school and eat healthy,” Watford said.

Using these types of assessments, and building on existing momentum and obesity prevention in the region, the HKHC partnership identified Community Champions to help tailor and lead healthy eating and active living efforts in each of the five project areas. The Community Champions were also engaged in a HKHC network across Moore and Montgomery Counties to brainstorm ideas, share lessons learned and successful strategies. Despite distance, limited financial resources and a small pool of volunteers, the HKHC partnership has created more opportunities for healthy eating and active living across Moore and Montgomery Counties.

The partnership has never viewed the region’s high rate of obesity as an insurmountable obstacle. Rather, it’s a challenge that it has an obligation to meet. “I think the health of our children is our future,” Watford said adding: “We have strong partnerships here that will help us meet the challenges together, in collaboration.”

Key accomplishments include:

Increased availability of 1% and skim milk in gallon-size containers at two corner stores in the small town of Candor, where the closest grocery store is five to six miles away.